Temple festivals amidst the current Pandemic environment
We, the members of The Board of Directors, wish to share our views in regard to the conduct of forthcoming religious festivals, primarily “Ganesh Visarjan” and “Brahmotsavam”.
Unlike in the previous years we will not be able to hold these functions in a grand and fitting manner this year. As you are aware the pandemic has disrupted normal life in almost all aspects of our society and effectively altered the way we conduct ourselves, including the operations of places of worship. Our temple has to re-invent ways and means to administer the temple activities and more importantly conduct our religious rituals and poojas.
We have always adhered to the Government Rules, Regulations and Directives; by closing the temple for the general public, effective from 23 March to 31 May 2020. During this period, although the temple remained closed to the public, we continued to perform our “Nithiya Poojas” as usual, with our priests performing them diligently and with devotion.
Effective from 1 June 2020, when the NSW Government relaxed the restrictions placed on the number of devotees who could have access to the temple, by increasing the number from 10 to 50, we accordingly made arrangements to accommodate the increased number of devotees but still followed the NSW Health Department’s Directives in relation to cleanliness, hand sanitation, registration at entry point, monitoring the temperature of entrants, ensuring that only the prescribed number of people are present inside the temple at any given time, social distancing (one and Half meters) and four square meters per person.
The purpose of these restrictions by the State is to ensure the safety and welfare of the society as a whole. It cannot have a situation where a rampant pandemic causing havoc to the health of the citizens and thereby inflict further damage to the health services and the economy. Equally it is our duty to ensure the welfare of our devotees and visitors by following the health guidelines of the Government.
The imposition and relaxation of restrictions by the State Government change from time-to-time in consideration of necessary preventative measures and in response to the current threat levels of the pandemic.
As residents of New South Wales and devotees and visitors of Sri Venkateswara Temple we must be mindful of our responsibility towards the employees and fellow devotees of the temple and the local and wider community.
The latest Directive states, ”The number of people in a public place of worship must not exceed one person per 4 square metres. The maximum applies to the whole of the venue, even where men and women worship in separate areas.” This has been further amended by calling on the places of worship to restrict the congregation to a maximum of 100 persons only. Our calculations indicate that we can accommodate about 140 persons at Sri Venkateswara Temple and around 160 persons at Sri Shiva Temple (spread evenly throughout the premises). We cannot allow the said number of devotees; and now 100 persons, to congregate at one shrine, say in front of Perumal Sannadhi or Ganesha Sannadhi. Knowing our tradition, our devotees will try to have a glimpse of Abhishekam, Pancha Arathi or any Arathi for that matter, by crowding in front of the shrine. Whatever steps we take, we have to bear in mind the overall restriction that needs to be complied with, especially in relation to a major festival (Ganesh Visrjan) or a routine function (Purattasi Sani Varam), that is to allow a maximum of 100 devotees only.
The above festivals are celebratory events but unfortunately, we are still in the midst of the pandemic and are currently witnessing the clusters of a second wave. Therefore, it is our responsibility to avoid large gatherings which have the potential to unleash the virus across the population. To have large gatherings in these circumstances could have dire consequences.
Therefore, it is our view that this year, we have no choice other than to scale down the scope and size of these events to ensure that we protect the welfare of our devotees and visitors by maintaining the rules pertaining to social/physical distancing and 4 square meter area per person.
We therefore request the devotees and others to keep in mind the risks posed by the virus and act accordingly. You may miss out on participating in some of the festivals but that is the “New” normal. We will keep you informed about the details of the forthcoming festivals and how you can help us conduct the festivals safely and with devotion complying with the Government’s health directives.
ALTHOUGH OUR TRADITIONS ARE IMPORTANT, BUT UNDER THE CURRENT PANDEMIC ENVIRONMENT, STAYING SAFE & COMPLYING WITH GOV’T GUIDELINES TAKE PRECEDENCE,
PLEASE COMPLY WITH THE GOV’T DIRECTIVES/HEALTH GUIDELINES AND ASSIST THE TEMPLE TO COMPLY WITH STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS.